January 18 2011
It was by chance eight years ago that I first stumbled across La Bouitte in the Alpine village of Saint Martin de Belleville. I am not just talking about the restaurant, which was already Michelin-starred and pulling in the crowds, but the dainty all-wooden rooms (first picture) above and adjacent to the main dining room with their simple white linen-covered beds.
They didn’t seem to advertise the fact that you could stay; in fact I only learnt of the rooms by accident. I remember the moment well. I was savouring the exquisite roast pigeon (second picture) wondering how I would gather the strength to get back to Courchevel. That’s when someone let it slip: La Bouitte’s rooms were a secret the Trois Vallées regulars kept close to their chests, a place to which true gastronomes would retreat after a stupendous Savoyard meal put together by owner-chef René Meilleur and his son Maxime.
La Bouitte has long represented a guarded weekend bolthole. It is easy to see why. Here you can enjoy a couple of days’ skiing (the adjacent ski area of Saint Martin has some of the most beautiful undulating off-piste country in the region), as well as more than one exceptional dinner (the caramelised veal sweetbreads still blow my mind) with late breakfast taken at intimate wooden tables (third picture). So quaint, so private, the perfect antidote to all that Trois Vallées bling.
So imagine my glee when I returned this season to find in La Bouitte’s basement the dreamy embodiment of the mini mountain spa: one room, one therapist, and a simple menu of four different massages. Now with this small but pertinent addition, the perfect winter bolthole is complete – ideal for a quiet weekend, no kids, steaming in the simple outdoor Jacuzzi with snowy peaks on every side.
Doubles from €265.